Opening “weak”end

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As the Waterfowl Study Leader for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in Baton Rouge, Larry Reynolds spends more time keeping up with duck populations and hunting success on a statewide basis than anyone we know. Here’s an exclusive look from Larry on how opening weekend of teal season went!

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          Larry Reynolds

“Well, I imagine you’ve heard plenty of reports by now and have generated a perception of the opening weekend of teal season.  Here’s mine:  Overall, I believe it was a very weak opening weekend of the teal season.  Despite a relatively high estimate from the survey transects in coastal Louisiana , water levels in the coastal marshes was high, the weather was hot and still, and the poor distribution of birds created poor hunting in those habitats.  LDWF employees were collecting samples at picking sheds in SW LA and far fewer than the normal number of birds were being processed.  Even worse, a larger than expected proportion of adult females were noted.  Those are typically the last to migrate, suggesting that those early cold fronts that provides such nice weather last week may have pushed a good portion of the teal through our state.  Hunting success the next 10 days will bear that out or not.  Hunting success in the southwestern rice fields was spotty, with some excellent hunts reported in the Gueydan and Lacassine areas along with many poor reports.  The same was true in southeast Louisiana where some excellent hunting was reported out of Venice, but our WMA’s did very poorly.  Combined, Joyce, Manchac, and Pearl River averaged less than 1/3 of a bird per hunter over the first 2 days of the teal season.  I don’t yet have bag check data from Atchafalaya Delta, Pass-a-Loutre, Pointe-aux-Chenes or Biloxi WMAs, but reports were below average.

In NE Louisiana, hunting was generally poorer than average except on private managed land and Wham Brake of Russell Sage WMA, where hunters averaged about 3  birds per hunter on the opener.  Other public areas in NE LA averaged less than a bird per man.  Hunters complained about the heat, lack of flooding in some areas, and overall low number of birds on our public areas.  Again, some managed private land had outstanding hunts, but even those noted a reduced number of birds from past years.

Catahoula Lake was flooded to about the target level for the regular duck season, but the aerial survey showed less than 200 teal using the lake.  On both Friday and Saturday, our bag check data showed 1.1 teal per hunter.  Likewise on Richard K. Yancey WMA, hunters average 1.1 teal per hunter, but Pomme-de-Terre, Sherburne, Grassy Lake, Spring Bayou, and Attakapas WMAs averaged less than a bird per hunter.  Miller’s Lake in central Louisiana reported good teal hunting the first day, but if feel off sharply afterwards.  As always, some private lands with well-managed water levels and wetland habitat reported good to excellent hunting in some areas.

Reports I got from LDWF personnel in NW LA suggested a very weak opener.  The Red river had a few birds with a couple people killing limits with most other hunters killing 1-2 birds.  The reservoirs were about the same with 1-3 birds per hunting party.  Some hunters said they saw a lot of teal during the dove opening weekend, but they appeared to have moved on. 

Those are the reports coming across my desk and my own personal hunting mimicked them.  I had the worst opening weekend of teal season in the last 13 years, I think due to high water in the marsh, high temperatures, and no wind, but also fewer than normal birds in my particular area.”